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5 reviews, 7 user ratings

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I Think I Love My Wife
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by Todd LaPlace

"I know I like this movie."
4 stars

When comedian Dave Chappelle teamed up with French director Michel Gondry for “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” it was a somewhat curious decision. But both had recently been crowned contemporary cult figures, so I guess on some level, it worked. When comedian Chris Rock decided to loosely remake the classic “Chloe in the Afternoon” by French director Eric Rohmer as “I Think I Love My Wife,” it was an even more curious decision. Sure, both can be considered heavyweights in their respective fields (stand-up comedy and the French New Wave, respectively), but Rock certainly has a lot to lose, especially since “Chloe” isn’t exactly the precursor to “Pootie Tang.” But perhaps most curiously of all, Rock’s remake works. Let’s just hope this doesn’t inspire the Wayans brothers to start watching Godard films for potential stories.

If you’ve ever found yourself watching one of Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales and thought, “This is good, but it’d be a lot better if there were some racial jokes thrown in,” then you’re in luck. Chris Rock, in his second outing as a director, has liberally borrowed the structure of New Wave classic “Chloe in the Afternoon,” thrown in a few contemporary references and his own brand of stand up, and come out with “I Think I Love My Wife,” arguably his best film to date. I wonder which foreign film “Pootie Tang” is based on.

In “I Think I Love My Wife,” which was also co-written by Rock along with fellow comedian and frequent collaborator Louis C.K., Rock finishes his triple duty by playing Richard Cooper, a mid-level Manhattan investment banker with a beautiful wife and two young children. He’s not exactly happy, but he’s more or less content in his routine, except for one small issue; his wife Brenda (the always talented Gina Torres) isn’t having sex with him. It’s because of this increasing sexual frustration that Richard is prone to daydreaming about random women in the afternoons. He prefers to take a later lunch so he can avoid the Midtown crowds and linger in his fantasies, which occasionally lead him into buying a hated light green shirt because the salesgirls are hot. While he allows his eyes to wander, he’s the kind of responsible man that would never allow it to go far enough to jeopardize his seven year marriage.

Of course, all of this is before Nikki (the beautiful Kerry Washington), the ex-girlfriend of an old friend. When Richard separately accompanies both women to a car show, each woman immediately gravitates to their auto-fied personalities. Brenda picks the minivan. Nikki picks the Porsche. ‘Nuf said. It doesn’t help that Nikki’s appearances are frequently accompanied by a teeny cleavage-bearing dress and plenty of overt flirtation. She frequently refers to Richard as “Mr. Married Man” (always with a tone of disbelief) and when he assures her that he’s happily married, she’s quick to plant doubt in his head with a “No, you’re not. You didn’t say it right.”

The primary moral issue of “Chloe in the Afternoon” is infidelity, which is made considerably more interesting by basing it on a relationship without physical contact. Although there are also many narrative similarities between the two films — Rohmer’s Frederic also allows an attractive woman to sell him on an odd-colored shirt — Rock did well to keep this same issue as the primary focus, as it is actually made more interesting by filtering it through black stereotypes. When Nikki first enters Richard’s office, she actually asks whether his two kids have the same mother, which she follows by asking if he has any illegitimate children, and when he says no, she jokingly accuses him of having turned white. Although she masks it, it seems as though she’s genuinely surprised he’s managed to remain faithful for seven years, which raises questions about her motivations. As she begins her flirtation, does she genuinely have feelings for Richard? Or does she simply see him as a new challenge?

Maybe it’s just because he’s wearing so many hats on the set, but I can’t help but liken Rock to fellow comedian Woody Allen. Rock clearly has a gift for one-liners and witty social commentary, but he has yet to fully translate it to film. When he was at the top of his game in the 70s, Allen managed to at least master both filmmaking elements, although his acting always seemed to be a thin variation on himself. While Rock hasn’t quite found his own “Manhattan” yet (although his love of Manhattan is clearly apparent), “I Think I Love My Wife” clearly demonstrates he’s on his way. While his turn as screenwriter on “Down to Earth” was pretty much a disaster, he fared a little better on directorial debut “Head of State.” It was still pretty much a disaster, but the idea behind it — a common black man makes a run for president — definitely had unmined potential. While Rock’s acting still needs some work — he too always seems to play a thin variation on himself — his writing and directing are solid. He’s managed to keep the spirit of Rohmer’s original, and has still found enough room for a few iPod references and Michael Jackson jokes (although a sophomoric and ill-fitting Viagra joke falls a little flat).

While Rock and C.K. deserve credit for crafting wonderfully three-dimensional roles, both are aided by an all-around strong supporting cast. Torres manages to make Brenda more than just the frigid wife, actually making us sympathize with her daily stress (which includes her horny husband). Steve Buscemi and “Gilmore Girls’ ” Edward Herrmann make welcome appearances as Richard’s coworkers. It’s the underappreciated Washington, though, that really steals the film. Having appeared in everything from lighter fare like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Fantastic Four” to Oscar-winning dramas “Ray” and most recently “The Last King of Scotland,” I suspect that she’s still seen as Julia Stiles’ best friend Chenille from “Save the Last Dance,” which might be why she’s not getting the recognition she deserves. It would have been so easy to play Nikki as a clichéd temptress, offering nothing more than easy sex and plenty of regrets, but she avoids it. Instead, Nikki is a complicated character, simultaneously being the hottest woman at the club and the oldest. As she realizes how fleeting her carefree life is, she begins to further cling to the stable Richard, so hoping that he’ll pull her into maturity that she doesn’t see that she’s the one doing the pulling. I don’t mean to (sort of) ruin the ending for anyone, but I think it’s pretty clear that the movie is leading toward a choice between his loving, loyal wife and his fun, flirty new friend, and I definitely don’t envy Richard having to make that decision. I guess the question is whether or not his potential infidelity is ultimately going to be worth all the effort. Fortunately, our journey is, and I, for one, can’t wait to see part two of Rock’s Moral Tales.

Hmm, Chris Rock takes a beloved French classic and makes a version that’s accessible to the masses. Anyone else not surprised that The Village Voice didn’t like it?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15559&reviewer=401
originally posted: 03/17/07 21:25:38
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User Comments

10/31/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 5 stars
9/14/07 Marty decent until the wtf sing-a-long ending. where the hell did that come from? 3 stars
9/12/07 cpbjr not terribly rewarding. did have a GREAT line in it. 3 stars
8/18/07 mr.mike i'd pay to watch kerry washington read the phone book 3 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Precisely what Snider said. Little laughs, less insight. 2 stars
3/22/07 Stacy They had a boy and a girl... Not "two adorable little girls"... otherwise, agreed. 2 stars
3/21/07 smatco i dont see this film 1 stars
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  16-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007

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[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Chris Rock

Written by
  Chris Rock
  Louis C.K.

  Chris Rock
  Kerry Washington
  Gina Torres
  Steve Buscemi

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